As news from the curia continues to scourge us with its scandal and scathe we are all undoubtedly tired. The rabbit hole sucks as it deflates. It is filled with muck and sludge, and its thickness sticks. Unable to completely compartmentalize, I can feel its heaviness everywhere. Without the emergence of true leadership, a sense of confusion and isolation is perhaps its most burdensome load.
We are being bombarded by news that potentially (probably) implicates Pope Francis to knowingly covering up for sexual predators! The narcissism among the hierarchy is so blind to interior insight that even with so much mounting evidence of personal implication they still seem completely incapable of apologizing on behalf of themselves! We continue to realize that in an effort to sustain a culture of abuse, they groomed us all! Just when we think we might be able to allow the shock to dissipate towards light, its pull towards darkness feels stronger.
As inconceivable and overwhelming as so many of the details appear to be, I do not ever want to give evil too much credit or very much space in my mind. I do not want to allow its darkness to dim God’s effort to put light in my life. The more unremarkable we allow evil to be, the less power it’s orchestrator possesses. It is remarkable only in its power to destroy that which is not focused on God’s goodness. Even in using its most clever devices evil cannot destroy what is truly good. What’s more, is that in its attempts to devour and demolish, the vileness so often reveals what is most precious and in need of protection. Why abuse children if not for the power their purity possesses? Why use sex to attack and abuse if not for its true sacredness and orientation towards life? Why have women been so excluded from the decision-making body of the Church if not for their capacity to create true change? What reason is there for McCarrick to sacrilege the Eucharist (as the nuncios letter claims linked here) if it is only a piece of bread?
We are witnessing, for the first time in ages, an internal implosion of the Church hierarchy. In the pursuit of power, prestige, and position these men have sought themselves while backstabbing others, and its all being consumed by its own cannibalism.
Even if we tend towards cynicism, even if history shows that the church has always been riddled in it, the confirmation of these types and levels of corruption in this particular time in history, at this particular time of our lives, in these types of ways, is incomprehensible. We can so easily be swept up and away by the outrage into a directionless frenzy of catharsis and chaos. The creativity that the laity and faithful priests so desperately need is so easily squandered by sheer exhaustion. We have jobs to do and babies to raise! Who in their right mind has time for this junk?! What reasons do we have to stay at all? I doubt much else satisfies evil than the kill of good simply by making it tired enough to feel so lonely that it gives up and walks away.
We must utilize our racing thoughts and emotions to embrace the freedom of a life chasing Jesus in new and radical ways. Catharsis without change is outrage wasted.
Though implosions have happened before, and may even happen again, we cannot reduce the magnanimity of God’s message to each and every one of us. In our own way, and for unique reasons, WE WERE EACH MADE FOR THIS VERY MOMENT.
So how do we capitalize on what currently feels so crazy?
To me there are non negotiable points that I think we have an opportunity to actualize as a lay movement if we properly leverage ourselves and engage with the gifts that we have been given. First: WE NEED AN OUTSIDE INVESIGATION OF THE WHOLE CHURCH. State by state is great, but this goes all the way up and all the way around the world. Second, not only do we need to purge out the bad people and practices, but we need to bring them to justice. Defunding them, and defrocking them is the only way to begin to defend the ones they have hurt and will hurt if we do anything different.
I think the first step in getting there is to lay ourselves down in prayer like we never have before. Part of me hesitates to even suggest this as our first line of strategy because how often does it feel like the phrase “thoughts and prayers!” is used as a way of buying time, and excusing slowness and inaction? I think too, much of our earnest has been so manipulated by our leaders that now, more than ever, we want to do more, when maybe, God is asking us all first to be more. We must remember that when we give ourselves over to God in the type of prayer when we completely and totally lay all of our fears and most absurd and radical questions that He does not disappoint. He seeks to accompany our loneliness with an energy and focus that can only be described as heaven-sent. Prayer is what activates the life in all of us. So let us go to Him in haste with the big questions and let us expect Him to give answers. How do I raise my kids in this mess?! Who am I to trust? When will this all be figured out? And while we may not get answers for what to do next week, we can have confidence that he is inspiring us with what to do today.
Nor can we underestimate the power of community to transform catharsis into change. We must discern our individual conscience with those that are like-minded, but diverse in talent. Maybe its organizing a town hall in your own parish, writing a letter to or requesting a meeting with the bishop. A new financial plan that withholds open-ended donations, or a new fervor to pray with our own families. Exchange ideas, report what works, respect differences among plans, understanding that God really asked each of us to be exactly who we are. In the words of one of my favorite fellow small Italian women, If we are who we are meant to be, we will set the world ablaze -St Catherine of Sienna. (and maybe we let the Vatican and its bank burn too 😉 )
Pray with urgency. Prepare to be pruned. Work together with focus. Discover concrete ways to reform ourselves, our communities, our local parish, our dioceses, and ultiamtely the whole Church. In it all, we must be patient with our own psychological make up. This is a traumatic event in our faith lives, and the way each of us is designed to process that will look very different. This is hard, this hurts, but we rest assured that God is the one in charge, and our love for Him cannot be unrequited.